State Republican Chairman J. Patrick Barrett has told close confidantes that he plans to resign the chairmanship.
Sources confirmed Thursday that Barrett, a Syracuse millionaire, has bowed to pressure from Republican leaders and will announce his resignation sometime after Jan. 1. Elected chairman in 1988, Barrett will be surrendering his post with more than one year remaining in a three-year term.
A fund-raising party for Assembly Republicans Thursday night was buzzing with rumors that Barrett already decided to resign. Barrett did not attend the event.
The fund-raiser also featured a fiery speech by Housing Secretary Jack F. Kemp, the former congressman from the Buffalo area.
Republican officials at the fund-raising party said Barrett and his aides have refused to confirm the report publicly. Barrett could not be reached to comment Thursday night.
His resignation is expected to create a free-for-all among several candidates for the post. A few years ago, hardly anyone wanted to replace Anthony Colavita, the Westchester County chairman, who served 3 1/2 years as state leader. Colavita also resigned under pressure.
Barrett is being forced out after leading the GOP through a nearly disastrous election campaign. The party tapped Pierre Rinfret, a political novice, to run against Gov. Cuomo, largely because Rinfret is rich. But his dismal showing nearly cost the party its second-place position on the election ballot. Barrett also was blamed for not raising enough money for the campaign or for the state Republican Party, which currently is in debt.
But the appearance by Kemp helped erase most of the debt owed by the Assembly Republican Campaign Committee, according to its executive director, Angela Rawson. Nearly 80 people attended the event with nearly $50,000 raised, she said.
Kemp called for the elimination or reduction of several taxes, particularly the capital gains tax. He criticized Gov. Cuomo and other Democrats for helping to kill President Bush's attempt to roll back the federal tax on capital gains.
Kemp insisted that the poor- not the rich- would benefit from a capital-gains tax reduction because it will stimulate the economy and create jobs.